New York Tribune

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The New York Tribune was a major American newspaper on the 19th century, under the editorship (1841-1872) of founder 1841 Horace Greeley. It was the unofficial organ of the Whig Party and after 1855 of the new Republican Party.

The Tribune was America's most influential newspaper from the 1840s to the 1870s and "established Greeley's reputation as the greatest editor of his day."[1] Greeley used it to promote the Whig Party and after 1854 the new Republican party, as well as antislavery and a host of reforms. The paper appeared in daily editions for city readers. Its abridged weekly editions were read very widely by Republicans across the North, and helped shape the editorials of hundreds of local papers.

Karl Marx was a paid correspondent in the 1850s, giving detailed reports on European politics. (Marx did not promote Marxism in these articles.)[2]

It lost importance in the 20th century and was merged with the Herald to become the New York Herald tribune; it folded in 1967, but continues as an American paper published in Europe.

Whig Era

In 1841 Greeley merged his campaign papers into the New York Tribune. It soon was a success as the leading Whig paper in the metropolis; its weekly edition reached tens of thousands of subscribers across the country. Greeley was editor of the Tribune for the rest of his life, using it as a platform for advocacy of all his causes. As historian Allan Nevins explains:

The Tribune set a new standard in American journalism by its combination of energy in news gathering with good taste, high moral standards, and intellectual appeal. Police reports, scandals, dubious medical advertisements, and flippant personalities were barred from its pages; the editorials were vigorous but usually temperate; the political news was the most exact in the city; book reviews and book-extracts were numerous; and as an inveterate lecturer Greeley gave generous space to lectures. The paper appealed to substantial and thoughtful people.[3]

Greeley prided himself in taking radical positions on all sorts of social issues; few readers followed his suggestions. Utopia fascinated him; influenced by Albert Brisbane he promoted Fourierism. He promoted all sorts of agrarian reforms, including homestead laws. The Tribune Almanac was an annual repository of political information and election statistics.

Greeley supported generous policies towards settlers; he memorably advised the ambitious to "Go West, young man." A champion of the working man, he attacked monopolies of all sorts and rejected land grants to railroads. Industry would make everyone rich, he insisted, as he promoted high tariffs. He supported vegetarianism, opposed liquor and paid serious attention to any ism anyone proposed. What made the Tribune such a success was the extensive news stories, very well written by brilliant reporters, together with feature articles by fine writers. He was an excellent judge of newsworthiness and quality of reporting.

Republican: New York Tribune

November 16, 1864 issue

When the new Republican Party was founded in 1854, Greeley and the Tribune became its unofficial national organ. It fought slavery extension and the slave power on every page. On the eve of the Civil War circulation nationwide approached 300,000.

His editorials and news reports explaining the policies and candidates of the Republican Party were reprinted and discussed throughout the country. Many small newspapers relied heavily on the reporting and editorials of the Tribune. He served as Congressman for three months, 1848–1849, but failed in numerous other attempts to win elective office. In 1860 he supported the conservative ex-Whig Edward Bates of Missouri for president, an action that weakened Greeley's old ally Seward.[4]

Greeley made the Tribune the leading newspaper opposing the Slave Power, that is, what he considered the conspiracy by slave owners to seize control of the federal government and block the progress of liberty. In the secession crisis of 1861 he took a hard line against the Confederacy. Theoretically, he agreed, the South could declare independence; but in reality he said there was "a violent, unscrupulous, desperate minority, who have conspired to clutch power" –secession was an illegitimate conspiracy that had to be crushed by federal power. He took a Radical Republican position during the war, in opposition to Lincoln's moderation. In the summer of 1862, he wrote a famous editorial entitled "The Prayer of Twenty Millions" demanding a more aggressive attack on the Confederacy and faster emancipation of the slaves. A month later he hailed Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.

Although after 1860 he increasingly lost control of the Tribune’s operations, and wrote fewer editorials, in 1864 he expressed defeatism regarding Lincoln's chances of reelection, an attitude that was echoed across the country when his editorials were reprinted. Oddly he also pursued a peace policy in 1863-64 that involved discussions with Copperheads and opened the possibility of a compromise with the Confederacy. Lincoln was aghast, but outsmarted Greeley by appointing him to a peace commission he knew the Confederates would repudiate.


The newspaper is only available on microfilm (occasional original copies are for sale on eBay), but its index is online

Further reading

  • Isley, Jeter Allen. Horace Greeley and the Republican Party, 1853-1861: A Study of the "New York Tribune" (1947)
  • Kluger, Richard, and Phyllis Kluger. The Paper: The Life and Death of the New York Herald Tribune‎ (1989), focus on 20th century
  • Parton, James. The Life of Horace Greeley: Editor of "The New-York Tribune" (1st ed. 1855, 2nd ed. 1889) 557 pages full text online
  • Seitz, Don C. Horace Greeley: Founder of the New York Tribune (1926) online edition
  • Van Deusen, Glyndon G. Horace Greeley, Nineteenth-Century Crusader (1953), standard biography online edition
  • Williams, Robert C. Horace Greeley: Champion of American Freedom (2006),


  1. Michael Emery and Edwin Emery, The Press and America (1988) 124-6.
  2. See Karl Marx, Dispatches for the New York Tribune: Selected Journalism of Karl Marx edited by Francis Wheen and James Ledbetter (2008) except and text search
  3. Nevins in Dictionary of American Biography (1931)
  4. Van Dusen 241-44

External links